There are a multitude of unsolved mysteries left for science to tackle. We don’t know where life came from or whether it exists elsewhere in the universe. We’re not even sure what most of the universe is made of. But all the more amazing to me are how many everyday phenomenon are not fully understood. We don’t know why we sleep. We don’t entirely know what moves the continents. We don’t even understand our own clothing. It’s true. What you’re wearing right now, we don’t know why you chose it, cannot predict what you will wear tomorrow, or even explain exactly what you are accomplishing by wearing it. Science lacks any ”Theory of Clothing.”
That doesnt mean we’re totally in the dark. We know that we use clothing to regulate body temperature. It seems obvious that it’s involved in social signaling, otherwise we’d fully relinquish our duds in warm weather. But good luck finding a textbook that explains how that social signaling works, why we often dress at odds with temperature regulation or the empirically derived purpose of neckties. An astronomer can easily tell you what phase the moon will be in on July 24th, 2097, but nobody can accurately predict what your sister will wear tomorrow. That’s kind of fantastic.
And it’s not like a theory of clothing is esoteric. The world apparel market is worth some $1.7 trillion yearly and about 75 million people are involved in making those clothes(ref). Shouldn’t we know why they do that? And wouldn’t it be handy for a trillion dollar industry to have some method for forecasting demand? Because right now it’s partially done by designers looking at rocks in their pockets. We can do better.
Here’s an article that takes an opening stab at the problem. Kurt Gray, Peter Schmitt, Nina Strohminger and Karim S. Kassam’s recently published “The Science of Style: In Fashion, Colors Should Match Only Moderately.” If you don’t like reading scientific articles, it’s pretty well digested on Slate.
The article’s findings—that clothing should match, but not too much—include equations and a graph. This is fantastic not because graphs and equations are themselves fantastic (though they are), but because someone is finally asking structured questions about what all this fabric is doing around our bodies. And asking in a way that tries to make predictions. Because these styles must mean something, and something pretty important considering we’re spending 1.7 trillion dollars to drape them around us. “Wearables” are all the rage with tech writers and venture capitalists, but how can we make great wearables until we know what and why we wear things in the first place? A theory of clothing could do that.
Is anyone else in science studying clothes? I’d love to hear about it.
I’m quoted this week on the NOVA web site in a well-done NOVA-next summary piece by Alison Bruzek’s about the Internet of Things. It’s called “To Automate Everything, Solve These Three Challenges“:
“…Connected devices are just beginning to slip into homes, from smart thermostats to apps that unlock your door without a key…as the internet of things is poised to remake our homes and offices, it’s facing perhaps its most critical test: adoption by the average consumer. The intelligent future promised by entrepreneurs won’t catch on if those devices can’t connect to each other automatically, lack intuitive programmability, or aren’t appealing designed. If they fail at any one of these, automating our homes may be more trouble than its worth.“
I argue that this intelligent future won’t arrive as some brave new world of scary robots, descending on us en masse. And you certainly won’t bring it all home in one bag.
“The best, easiest-to-use smart objects will likely look no different than devices we use today, Faludi points out. “A big chunk of this will just be baked into things that we buy,” he says. “You won’t buy an ‘internet of things.’“
Read more of the article online on the NOVA web site .
It’s going to be the largest collection of XBee projects on the Web. So many people have used XBee radios to create amazing things that Liz Presson and I created a place for Digi (makers of the XBee) to feature the incredible work. Musical shoes, digital dominoes, interactive sculptures and autonomous penguins await!
You can follow us directly, or use RSS to see new projects as they get added. Got an XBee project you would like to share? Let us know!
About a week ago we had the marvelous opportunity to teach a three-day outreach workshop in wireless sensor networking and environmental monitoring at the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy. Our 24 students were educators, scientists and engineers from Malawi, Nicaragua, India, Ecuador, Venezuela, West Gambia, Philippines, USA, South Africa, Tanzania, Jamaica, Columbia, Ukraine, Argentina and Albania. Marco Zennaro coordinated the workshops and was tremendously helpful and generous to us. Jordan Husney lectured and taught alongside me, both of us fueled by copious amounts of Italian espresso, administered under Marco’s watchful eye.
Some of our topics included:
- Introduction to Wireless Sensor Networking
- Industrial Applications of Wireless Sensor Networking
- Fun with XBees
- Fundamentals of Wireless Sensor Networking
- Basic XBee Chat
- Doorbell Project
- Basic ZigBee Chat
- Simple Sensor Network
- XBee Internet Gateway (XIG)
- iDigi Basics
- iDigi via XIG
- Building Environmental Sensors
- Environmental Sensing: Outdoor Lab
Digi generously donated our time and many of the materials for these workshops. The students successfully built all kinds of networks using XBee radios, ConnectPort gateways, the XIG software, iDigi and iDigi Dia. They will take what they’ve learned back home to build a wide variety of environmental systems for agriculture, solar schoolhouses, water quality, radiation sensing, energy, emergency response and many other purposes.
Here’s some photos from our global educational venture:
This year I’m on the jury for the Core77 Design Awards in the DIY category along with Adafruit’s Becky Stern, Banana Design Lab’s Yuri Gitman and Madagascar Institute’s Hackett. We’ll be looking at entries from artists, inventors, students, scientists and other innovators to choose the most trophy-worthy projects. Here’s a blurb from the Awards site:
Recognizing excellence in all areas of design enterprise, the Core77 Design Awards celebrates the richness of the design profession and its practitioners. For our second year, we present 17 categories of entry, providing designers, researchers and writers a unique opportunity to communicate the intent, rigor and passion behind their efforts. From client work to self-initiated projects, entrepreneurial to pro-bono engagements, we embrace a wide diversity of enterprise: commercial, cultural, social, environmental and discursive.
For 17 years Core77.com has provided a gathering point for professional designers and design enthusiasts. They publish articles, host lectures, create exhibits and design competitions, and offer databases and forums used by the entire design community. It’s an honor to work with such a terrific group of jurors for one of the design community’s most high-profile awards. Want to win? You can start by watching the video below, then registering!
The Transpiration project that started in my Sensitive Buildings class at NYU’s ITP was commissioned by 240 Central Park South to be a permanent installation in the courtyard of the building. It opened last night to a crowded gala reception. Transpiration is a data-driven, reactive projection of a forest that is influenced by the motion of the building’s elevators and the flux of people in and out of the building. The data is collected using security cameras deployed in the four elevators and projected as an outdoor display approximately two stories tall and 70 feet wide. The work gives residents who do not have a park view an alternative organic vista that changes dynamically throughout the evening.
Jim Korein, one of the building’s owners, commissioned the work and sponsored the opening party. Residents in attendance gushed about the work, and Jim reported that the class and artworks had actually created a cooperative culture that distinctly transformed the tenant-management relationship for the best.
Transpiration is a work by Gabrielle Levine, Jack Kalish, Toby Schachman and Emily Webster. Sensitive Buildings was supported by NYU, Digi International and historic 240 Central Park South’s Omnispective Corp.
A new A380 carried me to the WaveForum conference in balmy Nice, on the French Rivera. There, somewhat bleary-eyed, I delivered a talk on the XBee Internet Gateway to customers and partners that explained the functions of the gateway, the value of open-source and the projects the XIG enables for Make: Live, ICTP and my Sensitive Buildings students. Quite the coup for something that was born in a few lines of code late at night in my home lab in late 2008! The next day I delivered my soon-to-be-classic Fun with XBees talk. That presentation shows off all the creative innovations enabled by XBee radios in the artist, scientist, maker, designer and inventor communities. It makes people smile.
I got to connect with a lot of Digi’s customers from European telecom industrialists to Croatian electrical engineering graduate students. And after a delicious lunch of mussels and fries, it is off to Italy for five days of teaching science sensor networking through UNESCO at ICTP.
This month I’ll be speaking at WaveForum in Nice, France. On February 14th I’ll be presenting the XBee Internet Gateway and on the 15th I’ll be talking attendees through the latest Fun with XBees. Are you in France or want to be? The basics for attending are on the main WaveForum site and there’s additional info on the iDigi blog.
Next, I’ll be teaching a three-day workshop at the ICTP in Trieste, Italy on wireless sensor networking as part of their outreach program to engineers from Africa.
Jordan Husney of Digi will be joining me to co-teach the workshop. We’re both looking forward to meeting some of our users from around the world in person!
The Advanced Kit for my Building Wireless Sensor Networks book is now finally available from SparkFun electronics! If you got the BWSN Basics Kit and still want more, the BWSN Advanced Kit can complete your array of tools and components to do every project in the book. This kit includes the key items you’ll need to complete the more advanced example projects in Building Wireless Sensor Networks. With this kit you can go “over the border” from your mesh network to the Internet, learn about home automation by exploring power control, post data using the XBee Internet Gateway software and more. Plus, you’ll save money over buying all these components separately.
2x Arduino Uno R3, 2x PowerSwitch Tail II, 1x ConnectPortx2, 1x XBee 2mW – series 2x, 1x 9V to Barrel Jack Adapter, 1x TMP36 IC, 1x XBee Explorer USB, 1x AA Battery Holder with Cover and Switch, 1x 6′ miniUSB Cable, 1x LM1117 Voltage Regulator, 1x 6′ USB A-B Cable, 1x 9V Wall Wart, 1x 2N3904 Transistor, 1x DC Barrel Jack Connector
Remember, this kit complements the Basics setup, so to do all the projects, you’ll want both. And you can buy it from SparkFun today.